Gary Cooper reached out and shook her hand, the very first time on television that a white reached out and touched the hand of an African-American in friendship. Her movie scenes were cut when those movies were shown in the South. Her name? Lena Horne.
Other stories are even more painful to hear. So clear in my memory is the story of the highly-decorated W.W.II black soldier who, discharged in New York, could not find a motel in which to stay as he wended his way down the highway to his South Carolina home.
Thankfully, such stories are part of our segregationist past. Or, so I hoped.
On Ted Koppel's Nightline program a group of seven African-Americans referred to the "lynching stories" they share when together. One, a judge, while waiting outside a hotel to be picked up to go to a banquet, was told by a white man to carry his bags into the hotel. On a whim the man carried the bags and then, when asked how much he was owed, said, "Twenty dollars." The shocked man gave the twenty dollars. The panel laughed, but not their eyes.
I think that we will have reached a just society when there is an end to such lynching stories. When the stories that are told are just human stories, stories that arise out of the absurd and painful things that happen to each of us because we are human and not because of color or sex or ethnicity or....
For, in reality, it is the shared pain and tragedy of our lives, the "lynching stories," that bind us in real community. That certainly is the experience of twelve-step and therapy groups. When I am with others who tell of their exploits and successes, boredom and weariness set in,. But when a person traces the trail of her or his pain and despair, failure and fatigue, I am caught in the real human story.
In the 1950s musical, "For Heaven's
Sake," there was the song titled: "He Was a Flop at
33." Indeed, we Christians gather each Sunday around a lynching,
a first century lynching, story that forms us into a community.
--Robert H. Tucker
27 July 1998